Merchants’ views on early 2015 release prices

Geoffrey DeanWith a stream of release prices for the Bordeaux 2015s now coming out, investors have plenty to digest and ponder. One prominent château’s announcement this week that caught my eye came from Pape Clement, particularly because exactly a month ago when I visited it, I was told by the general manager, Cecile Daquin (Bernard Magrez’s daughter) that the increase on 2014 should be not more than 10-15%. In fact, it is 18.1%, the exact average predicted by Liv-ex’s members.

A few percentage points more than anticipated should not necessarily be an issue. Much more significant, surely, must be the discount of the 2015 prices to the last ‘great’ vintage approaching maturity – 2005 (the 2009s and 2010s being young). Farr Vintners, the top-notch Battersea outfit with a high turnover and exemplary knowledge of the Bordeaux market, are worth listening to here, and they argue that 2015 release prices must be at least 30% less than the current 2005 prices. 

Given that Pape Clement’s 2015 release price of 58.8 Euros ex-negociant (roughly £625 per case in London) is at a discount of nearly 50% to current 2005 prices, as well as being comfortably below those of 2009 and 2010, the Graves estate appears to merit a ‘buy’ tag. Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate gave it 97-8 points, a similar score to the 2012, incidentally, which was one of Robert Parker’s wines of the vintage (a challenging one). That is now available at £571 per case.

Chateau Pape Clement Cellar

Chateau Pape Clement

Casting the net around, and still using 2005 as a comparison, another estate attractively priced is Beychevelle. The St-Julien fourth growth has hiked its 2015 price up 16% from 2014 to 50.4 euros p/b, but that is still 38% lower than what you would have to pay to get your hands on a case of 2005. Beychevelle has historically been a consistently reliable performer in the secondary market. Liv-ex recently hailed it as one of the ‘driving labels’ of the Left Bank 200 index, and the wines have shown an average 66% return from 2005-14 (boosted as it was by the 100%-plus appreciation of the 2005-2008 vintages).

Liv-ex agrees with Farr Vintners that 30% is the key discount on current 2005 prices needed for 2015s to represent ‘best value’. Another estate to offer nearly double that discount is Lafleur. The Pomerol property, whose 2015 is going for £4,500 a case, attracted a 98-point rating from Martin and 100 from James Suckling. That represents its best scores since 2009 and, although more expensive than the 2011-2014 vintages, it is being sold for 55% less than current market price of the 2005.

Chateau Lafleur BottleMerchants are pushing Langoa Barton, with Corney & Barrow classifying it as a “firm recommendation” in an email to clients. “Langoa deserves to be first on this offer,” they wrote.  “A very moderate increase on the 2014 and it fits our criteria, being well under the price of 2005, 2009 and 2010 – we loved the wine and it is a firm recommendation.” Lea & Sandeman also saluted the Medoc estate, saying it was a wine the team “just loved” and while conceding it was a shame it wasn’t “a little cheaper.”

Indeed, prices need forensic examination, and investors can afford to be choosy. As Liv-ex pointed out in its recent Cellar Watch report, château owners have “less room for price increases than they might have hoped for due to the strength of the euro, wide disparities between critic scores and general buyer apathy.”

The Vin-X team are assessing releases as they come out with their first choice wines identified for their clients, for more information contact us now on 0203 384 2262 or register your interest in receiving information on en primeur 2015 wines at info@vin-x.com